By Marius Wanders - 30th October 2013
The EU should not only focus on measures to reduce the number of child trafficking victims within the EU, but also consider the 'bigger picture' globally
According to World Vision, children make up 15 per cent of identified victims of human trafficking in Europe, but in some global regions they account for as much as 68 per cent.
That children within the European Union continue to suffer horrific exploitation under the 'slavery of our times' is a scandal. The recently published Trafficking in human beings report reveals the number of identified trafficking victims within the EU increased by 18 per cent between 2008 and 2010; this increase may also indicate improvements in reporting rate, or changes in the recording system.
The report finds that within the EU, 68 per cent of victims are women, 17 per cent men, 12 per cent girls and three per cent boys. This means children make up 15 per cent of identified victims of human trafficking, a relative percentage that has not materially changed over the reports' three reference years.
The EU has developed many laudable actions to tackle trafficking. These include the 2011 EU anti-trafficking directive, its transposition into national law by member states, the appointment of an EU anti-trafficking coordinator and the adoption in 2012 of a new EU anti-trafficking strategy.
In this strategy, special attention is given to child trafficking. Among other actions, it foresees protection of child victims of trafficking through development of guidelines and through strengthening child protection systems in member states, more focus on prevention activities for specific vulnerable groups including children at risk, and conducting research into high-risk groups, including so called 'home alone children' whose parents migrated for labour purposes.
World Vision welcomes and supports this increased focus on children in the EU strategy, but we believe there are 'missing links' that must be taken up.
Most importantly, the EU should not only focus on measures to reduce the number of child trafficking victims within the EU, but also consider the 'bigger picture' globally. The Global report on trafficking in persons 2012 (UN office for drugs and crime) reveals that while European countries report 15 per cent of detected victims are children, in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East the relative percentages of child victims are much higher - in some areas of the world, children make up 68 per cent of trafficking victims.
World Vision believes the EU, as a global champion for justice and development, cannot turn a blind eye to the millions of children who are trafficked outside its borders and jurisdiction.
A good place to start would be to apply the principle of Policy coherence for development to the specific policy area of child trafficking: for each existing or new EU policy or program, carefully and independently assess what its likely effects will be for trafficking of children, both globally and within the EU.
In this way the EU will be looking coherently within and beyond its own borders to ensure that vulnerable children are protected from this insidious crime.
Marius Wanders is World Vision International's EU representative